I'm a gamer - and I've played all the Warcraft games. I never particularly cared for the stories in those games, though, so I didn't go into this with much in the way of preconceived notions.
Based on the trailer, I was expecting an underwhelming popcorn B-movie with bad CGI.
I was pleasantly surprised.
First of all, I have to say the CGI is absolutely gorgeous. I've seen a lot of movies, believe me, and this has to be one of the most convincing fantasy films in terms of visuals alone. The Orcs in particular - are amazing.
Anyway, in terms of the heart of the film - the story, characters and the acting - it's sort of a mixture of good and bad.
The story itself is simple but effective - and it makes enough sense to give you a reason to care. That said, it's very high-fantasy stuff - and I'm sure some people will be turned off by the emphasis on extravagant magic and such.
As for the acting, well, it's a mixed bag.
Ironically, the human characters face the most trouble here. Ben Foster as Medivh, for instance, doesn't seem to connect with his role. He looks and sounds as if he's struggling with the material - and as if he regrets being there. Travis Fimmel as Lothar is better, but he also seems to have a hard time just standing still and looking normal. It's as if he's constantly trying to emote something, which makes him over-act on more than one occasion. Paula Patton as Garona goes back and forth between powerful, genuine expression and cringe-worthy melodrama. Surprisingly, I found Ben Schnetzer the best and most convincing actor, playing Khadgar. He was fun and not at all the comic relief I expected him to be.
On the opposite side of the coin, we have the Orcs - and to put it simply, they're ALL great. They look incredible and the actors behind them give them real weight and pathos. Durotan, Gul'dan and Blackhand are particularly convincing and masterfully executed. The whole movie might well be better if it was all about these guys.
Now, for the action. It's amazingly well done. I saw the movie in 3D - and the live actors meshed convincingly with the animated models - and the action sequences were more or less perfect. I didn't detect a single "bad 3D" moment - which is extremely rare. Very exciting stuff, for sure.
Speaking of 3D - something I generally don't care much for, this was an exception. Everything jumped out of the screen at you - and it didn't seem tacked on at all. The spectacle felt appropriately close to you - and the striking background images were just fabulous on a grand scale.
Sadly, it's not all roses from there.
The ending was rushed - and everything wrapped up too quickly - and it didn't quite convince as a plausible series of events towards the end.
There's a pretty serious lack of character development in the beginning of the film. The Orcs invade - and the humans seem strangely laid-back and almost casual in their initial response. Things happen without enough build-up. It's 20 or 30 minutes too short for the scale of what's going on, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, there's also a somewhat unnecessary subplot involving the son of Lothar - and there's a problem with his acting and the age difference seems off. Lothar simply doesn't look or feel like a father to me. To make it worse, events related to father and son are too cliché and needed more impact.
Things like these mean the movie isn't all it could have been.
However, the critics are flat-out unfair - and if you're into fantasy movies and a touching spectacle, you need to go see this in the theater, and for once, you should go with 3D.
I truly hope it will do enough business to warrant a sequel. Duncan Jones did well here, but he can do even better - and I'd love to see full justice done to the material.